A trip to the Swedish countryside may not be on your itinerary if you are visiting Stockholm for the first time. After all, there are so many exciting places to visit in or around the Swedish capital. But Landsort has its own way of attracting visitors. The remote little village nestled on the most southern island of the Stockholm Archipelago holds a lot of history, a very unique flora and fauna and above all is home to Sweden’s oldest lighthouse.
Landsort is about 60 kilometers south of Stockholm. The island can be reached year round by boat from Ankarudden, a small port about 20 km away from the town of Nynäshamn. From Stockholm to Nynäshamn, you can either take the train or the bus.
The little port in Ankarudden is very picturesque, offering some nice photo opportunities. Next to the Marina there is a small family owned restaurant where you can grab a tasty burger, or a “fika” while waiting for the boat.
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Once on the boat you will sail through the gray waters of the Baltic Sea passing scattered islands, some of which are popular summer retreats for the Swedes. The boat ride takes about 40 minutes, but the total time from central Stockholm is nearly three hours.
Landsort village is located on Öja island, a long and narrow strip of land with a very unusual nature. Unlike any other island in the Archipelago, here you’ll see barren rocky areas that alternate with verdant vegetation. The northern part of the island is dense forest with shrubs. The southern part has swamps and marshes populated with rare species of orchids and other botanical rarities, like arctic raspberry and whitebeam.
Landsort’s current population is around thirty people. There is a number of vacation homes on the island, so during the summer months the village population is considerable higher. Most of the summer residents are ancestors of the old inhabitants of the island.
Because of its strategic position at the at the inlet to Stockholm and Södertälje, Landsort has always played an important role in the defense of the Swedish coastline. During World War II and the Cold War, Landsort was a military base for the Swedish coastal artillery, but in the year 2000 the military establishment was closed and is now open to the public.
The ferry will drop you off in the populated part of the island that features a café, a hostel, a store and a lighthouse, all within walking distance of each other. At first glance, Landsort doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. But as you continue your visit the island’s charming ambiance begins to capture your imagination. This strange yet beautiful piece of land lost amongst hundreds of other islands has an intriguing air of mystery that makes you feel like you arrived at the very end of the Earth. And yet, you are just a couple of hours away from one of Europe’s major cities.
As you walk through the serene village with little red houses, granite boulders and a wild coastline you get a sense peace and tranquility. Time seems to have stopped here since nobody keep track of it or worries about its passing.
The first structure you’ll probably notice as you get off the boat is the tall square building of the communications tower, also called the Pilot Tower. In recent years the Pilot Tower has been converted into a hostel that provides accommodations for those who want to spend a few days on the island. There are six double bedrooms in all (two on each floor) which share a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower. The rooms are rather modest, but offer the best view of the see and the island. On the top floor there is a small kitchenette for guests who want to cook their own meals.
The next structure that will surely catch your eye as you follow the shoreline into the village is the iconic Landsort lighthouse, considered to be the oldest one in Sweden. The original building was erected in the 1660s, but the current structure dates only from 1870, when the lighthouse was rebuilt. If you climb up to the top of the lighthouse you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the island and the sea.
At the foot of the lighthouse you can also visit the bunkers and the naval guns, vestiges of the intricate military installations that were once ready to defend Sweden from an attack. For more information on Sweden’s military history you should read Jane Dempster’s article entitled “Stockholm’s Archipelago & Military History, Sweden.”
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In the northern part of the island you will find a nature reserve for bird watching and a cemetery for the plague victims. There is also a circular rock formation called The Giant Kettle, considered to be the largest in the Nordic countries. In the summer you can take a swim or just sunbathe on the warm smooth rocks on the shore.
So, is Lndsort worth the effort? For me it was. This little village will make you feel like you were thrown back in time.